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Hotel Lawyer: New star rating system for hotels in Italy. What does it mean?

10 March 2009

Hotel Lawyer with the new standards for rating hotels in Italy. Why should we care?

Many travelers refer to the AAA or Mobil ratings for hotels and restaurants for reliable information about the quality of an establishment. As most folks know, AAA uses the diamond rating system and Mobil uses the star rating system.

While these tried and true rating systems are unlikely to be replaced anytime soon, I was fascinated to receive a recent message from a lawyer friend in Italy. It talked about the new star rating system recently promulgated by the Italian government on February 11, 2009.

Here’s the scoop …

Minimum standards for lodging star ratings in Italy

Initially, unless planning a trip to Italy, one might be inclined to question the importance of the Italian decree, given the far more elaborate rating systems of AAA and Mobil. But on reflection, I think these new standards are quite interesting and possibly important to international lodging standards.

Although the AAA and Mobil standards may be more detailed than the new Italian standards, many hotels — particularly in foreign countries — claim to be 5- or even 6-star hotels which clearly don’t meet Mobil 5-star standards. And, of course, Mobil only goes up to 5-stars. Apparently it is difficult or impossible to restrain these claims, or at least Mobil has not been willing to undertake the cost of enforcement against hotels claiming stars without the benefit of Mobil having bestowed them.

So why is a government minimum standard important?

The recent Italian decree makes an important statement about how seriously the Italian government takes the public’s ability to rely on statements of quality and standards of lodging facilities in Italy.

A few decades ago, when a lot of mediocre wine was being mislabeled as Italian premium wine, the government and growers realized how this could kill the long term prospects for the Italian wine industry, and today their standards for wine labeling are very strict. These standards have helped propel the constantly-improving Italian wines to top of many lists of favorites. (certainly mine).See, for example the recent article on the extensive battles fought over what could be called “Brunello” at Hotel Lawyer: Eureka! A ray of sunshine amidst the gloom.

For the same reason, it is important that travelers not be defrauded by over-ambitious claims of entrepreneurial hotel owners who have only their conscience to govern how many stars they give themselves.

The new lodging rating system for Italian hotels may use relatively few words, but it certainly does get across some of the most important elements for travelers.

This system would have saved me a lot of trouble at a “6-star” hotel on the “Turquoise Coast” of Turkey a few years ago, which did not have an English language capacity! (My Turkish was limited to being able to order “şarap” . . . wine).

The new Italian star rating standards

Stefano Guiso-Gallisay, an attorney with the Studio Legale Ughi e Nunziante in Milan (+ or, provided this summary of the new decree:

On 11 February 2009, a decree was published setting the minimum standards that hotels must meet within the Italian territory. The intended purpose of the decree is to provide to hotel guests better and more competitive services. The decree sets forth the following standards:

One-star hotels: reception must be open at least 12 hours a day; cleaning of rooms at least once a day; minimum size of double rooms 14 square meters; change of sheets once a week.

Two-star hotels: must have an elevator; change of sheets at least twice a week.

Three-star hotels: must have a bar service, receptionists must speak at least one foreign language; the reception must be open at least 16 hours a day; personnel must wear a uniform; each room must have internet services and private bath.

Four-star hotels: in addition to daily cleaning, the room must be re-set in the afternoon and sheet and towels must be changed daily; must offer laundry services to clients; must have parking for at least 50% of the rooms; double rooms of at least 15 square meters and bathroom of at least 4 square meters.

Five-star hotels: reception must be open 24 hours a day and must offer at least 3 foreign language capabilities; single rooms must be of at least 9 square meters and double of at least 16 square meters.

Thank you, Stefano! It will be interesting to see what other countries do to defend the integrity of lodging quality standards. I think Italy has made meaningful progress.

This is Jim Butler, author of and hotel lawyer, signing off. We’ve done more than $50 billion of hotel transactions and more than 100 hotel mixed-used deals in the last 5 years alone. Who’s your hotel lawyer?

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